Supporting a cross media world: the role of agencies

Ten years ago, if you asked an account handler in a network advertising agency group about cross media production coordination beyond TV and press, you would be met with a blank expression. The cross media market place has evolved beyond recognition. Such attitudes are now history as multinational network agencies have recognised the need to demonstrate specialist capabilities that span creative and production disciplines.

Today the majority of brands have embraced a cross media approach, striving to connect on a more personal level and are actively creating integrated cross channel touch points. With this integrated marketing approach, many marketers rely on network advertising agencies to fulfill strategic brand meaning creation (development) and the production (deployment) of these messages across channels – often influenced by the insistence of agency Executive Creative Directors that somehow the message would be lost without their personal continuing participation.

An integrated solution is often the required response to a cross channel and consumer led world but the provision of this so often lags behind the need as a clearly differentiated hand off from strategic creative to production – decoupling – is not clearly defined as creative agencies seek to control all elements. Such actions lead to the increased chance of message distortion, lack of transparency and the inefficiencies both from a cost and speed to market perspective.

The global economic climate has put a strain on the truism that agencies and brands should build a collaborative partnership. Rather, client/supplier and agency/agency relationships, often short-lived in nature, are developed. Agencies and brands face a double-edged sword: whilst a greater emphasis on financial results has forced a greater understanding of cost, focus must be placed on understanding consumer trends and improving innovation surrounding marketing, products and services to grow. Clients and agencies should work in complete collaboration over longer periods of time to result in a successful brand.

Agencies focused on creating brand meaning would benefit from the support of other specialist agencies in a production role that become an agile facilitator of tactical and adaptive production across media marketing requirements. This ‘production hub’ or ‘engine room’ will provide a transparent and bespoke solution to the brand’s need, accessed through a single account management team on a local, regional and global scale. Such an approach would also lead to agility, cost-effectiveness and enhanced speed to market.

The agency community for many years has welcomed a client-centric approach. Models that recognise the importance of client specific requirements including fully immersed onsite ‘local’ teams with specific skill sets to full offsite agency support. Establishing clear models that address the need for an insightful strategic big idea creative and cross media deployment are not enough to achieve consistency and coherence. The desired interaction must be one of transparent specialist collaboration between agencies and clients that drives brand value. Not independently but as one. Creating impact and brand profitability.

Respecting and maintaining the trust in consumers is the joint responsibility of brands and agencies but should be led by a central focus that protects that brand equity for the client offering brand support, brand management and acting as a central point of reference locally, regionally and globally. Let there be no mistake that the guardians of a brand are not the Executive Creative Directors of strategic agencies but the teams that execute the delivery across channels. Their specialist knowledge, expertise and resource are as critical as any glossy big idea presentation at the beginning of the process.

By close collaboration between agencies and brands, a bespoke agency can be built for the brand, utilising the best available expertise in the market to deliver a seamless experience for the consumer that is highly accountable and cost-effective and that leads to one place, your brand’s shelf. This decoupled—the parting of creative work and its production—approach must not be taken lightly, but is an integrated and strategic plan that is considered from a long-term perspective and where the whole supply chain is understood. Ultimately the production partner of today can be of longer-term strategic importance to the brand than many of the creative agencies appointed over the last decade—creating a seamless execution across all markets without compromising creative quality. Even the largest network advertising agencies are redefining their structures to incorporate stand-alone production disciplines as brands demand more transparency. It is for the brand to decide whether this monopoly adds a benefit or closes the door to an optimised and transparent model of collaboration—the bespoke tailored suit consisting of the finest blend of materials or off the rack alternative at the same price?

About the Author

John Lawrence_GSK

John Lawrence is a Business Development Director at SGK Europe. John has operated as a strategic brand consultant for Blue Chip organisations for over 10 years, providing consultancy through to creative design and implementation across channels. His industry experience includes FMCG, Retail, Aerospace and Technology. He has an absolute passion for the communications industry and most enjoys collaborating with brands to create strategies that improve performance and profitability. John is part of SGK’s European Business Development team.